Dubai is NOT for backpackers!

Yep. I said it. Dubai is NOT for backpackers. It seems we are merely an irrelevance (and a bit of an embarrassment) to the masses of rich tourists hanging out in the Dubai Mall showing off their new Gucci handbags. Still, undeterred, we backpackers still have just as much right to enjoy tourism in Dubai as the middle-class holidaymakers and millionaires, but how exactly can we do it [without making a fool of ourselves]?

The Gold Souk in the Dubai Mall (photo courtesy of wikicommons)
The Gold Souk in the Dubai Mall
Fancy a game of tennis?
Fancy a game of tennis?

I have been to Dubai on two separate occasions, and enjoyed myself to an extent. But the fact is that I do not have enough money to enjoy all that Dubai has to offer. I’m not moaning, I’m just stating a fact – and I’m sure there’s plenty of people who agree with me. It’s great to see luxurious hotels and expensive tourist attractions, but for Dubai to really become something of an all-budgets travel destination it needs to start thinking of the poor backpackers.

A typical tourist map of Dubai (click to enlarge)
A typical tourist map of Dubai, from (click to enlarge)

Personally, I don’t think Dubai really cares about the backpacking industry. And why should they? After all, they make their millions through tourism by enticing rich people to their emirate, and that’s fair enough. But what irks me the most is that Dubai actually has a big history BEFORE the discovery of oil, and it is this kind of history, culture, as well as the friendly hospitality of everyday Emiratis that should be promoted to tourists of all budgets.

Life by the Creek is as cheap as you can get
Life by the Creek is as cheap as you can get

I have never seen a suitable 3* hotel in Dubai for less than £70 per night. The Dubai Creek and the Palm are totally off limits to backpackers. The Downtown Dubai area (around the Burj Khalifa skyscraper) doesn’t have any budget accommodation either. Usually the so-called “budget” accommodation in Dubai is centred around Bur Dubai, such as Al Rigga Road, or near the Dubai Creek. Yet many of these accommodations are unsafe and decrepit, also used by locals as illegal brothels, which would certainly not entice me to stay there, and I doubt many of you either.



If you’re clever, however, you can really at least try to get the most out of your ill-advised backpacking trip to Dubai. It can be done. Granted, you won’t have money left over for booze like you would in Asia or parts of Europe, but then Dubai doesn’t have a drinking culture anyway. See? It’s looking up already! One of the things any backpacker to Dubai can enjoy is Arabic food. Around these parts, Shawarma is pretty much eaten all the time. This will remind you of a doner kebab from Turkish cuisine, and there are many fast food restaurants scattered around the emirate to satisfy your cravings. Yet beware: Emiratis love their shawarma so much that you can expect long queues during meal times!

It is also possible to embrace the warm Emirati hospitality by enjoying a meal or two with them. This probably won’t involve knives and forks (not that I’m suggesting they’re cannibals!) and a table, but rather a traditional Arabic meal where we all sit on the floor and potentially enjoy some shisha together while watching the desert stars! However, please don’t attempt to make random conversation with locals to instigate this mealtime, as many people in this part of the world will get offended if foreigners approach them (it’s a cultural thing). Oh, and a foreign man talking to an Emirati women? No, no, no!


The brochures and videos floating around the web make Dubai look like such a nice destination with so much to offer. And it is. And it does. However, without any money to enjoy the kind of facilities prevalent around these parts (even access to water parks is quite expensive here), it is hardly worth leaving the airport. Still, I heard Dubai Airport’s Terminal 3 has a McDonald’s now…


14 thoughts on “Dubai is NOT for backpackers!

  1. Thanks for your comment – I completely agree with you. Dubai is for the affluent only, unfortunately. Travel well,


  2. After many, many, many layovers on business trips to Afghanistan, I can also safely say that Dubai is NOT for backpackers. But it is a fun city for someone that is willing to spend a little money…


  3. I totally agreed. Even without properly researching about the country, only looking at photos, most people would know that Dubai is a city meant for people with $$$$$. Haha


  4. Having lived here all my life I would definitely agree, it’s not the place for backpackers. If you’re looking for a good place to stay, I’d recommend staying at a good hotel apartment rather than at 3 star hotels or less. That is of course, if you’re okay with making your own food, or dining out. We normally take an apartment when we travel to Al Ain. It’s cheaper and if you’re going as a family, it’s like staying at home. 🙂


  5. Haha that video is so so so far away from my understanding and experiance with all trip that i did. But anyway…i guess it could be nice to try it once. Just a foolish dream. 🙂


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